Monday, 16 November 2015

I'm Home

Back in August I'd intended to write a post before I went away, but I ran out of time. Early that month I finally made up my mind to book a flight to Biarritz, the first part of getting to St. Jean Pied de Port in France. I'd decided to start to walk the Camino Frances, also known as The Way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrim path. I'd cleared September of art events and teaching, bought a guide book and talked to a friend who'd done it in 2 stages but didn't read much about it; wanting to experience it for myself. Louise, Barney and William took me to the airport and it was sad saying goodbye. I remember thinking what on earth am I doing? Can I manage the walking? I was full of doubts and apprehension but I knew I needed to get away, have a big adventure and it certainly was!
I was walking as a pilgrim, just me and my rucksack, on my own to give thanks for my son's health and for my own. My Mum died at 66 and I started the walk at the same age; I feel so lucky to be fit and healthy; I've missed her so much throughout my life and the walk was partly in her memory.
St. Jean was a delightful place and together with some other pilgrims we found a bed for the night and set off early the next morning.
The first day was one of the toughest, 25.1 km and climbing from 200m to 1,450m into the Pyrenees. Frequent stops to admire the view and catch my breath were needed! The rewards were the lovely cafe at Orrison, the hill ponies running free, the flocks of sheep, the popup roadside cafe (a van) high up in the mountains and interesting people. It was a joy to be walking in the beautiful landscape even though the wind threatened to blow me away! I was glad to be weighted down by my rucksack!
Reaching Roncesvalles (valley of thorns) and booking a bed in the recently renovated albergue was a great feeling and the substantial, cheap pilgrim supper that evening was very welcome. First day completed and I did think that hopefully barring accidents I would be able to complete the whole walk, but never having done anything as long as this or as mad it all felt unknown.
Our first pilgrim supper with Co from Holland, Felicitas from Germany and Barry from Cornwall.
A reminder of the distance ahead!
I've been back for over a month now and am still assimilating the effects of the wonderful journey I had. Each day brought new experiences, places, foods, people; there were highs and lows and it's hard to describe how it's affected me. It was a spiritual journey I'm so glad I took, deeply moving, very tough physically and emotionally but enriching.
There will be more about it in future posts, but I did make it to Santiago and then walked on to Finisterre on the coast, a total we worked out of 850km. I'd allowed 6 weeks which was just right, I arrived back home on October 7th. The homecoming has also been deeply emotional, tears of joy seeing my family and friends again. It has taken time to really arrive home after 6 weeks of total freedom. I've just started to read the journal I kept and it brings it back to life so vividly. I remember the camaraderie of the Camino, the interesting people I met from all over the world, the wonderful scenery, the kindness of the Spanish people and other pilgrims. The walking became my meditation, I loved it.
Sheer joy and exhilaration!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Lots of fun....

They say that time flies when you're enjoying yourself, so I guess I have been. Ages since my last blog, mainly preparations for Cambridge Open Studios; as it takes time to transform my space I now open for all 4 weekends in July. It was a successful OS with lots of lovely, interesting people visiting from all over the place. I so enjoy meeting people who take time to travel out to the sticks to sleepy Steeple Morden and made new friends and useful contacts with other artists.
 I even managed to take a photo or two and as my sister came to help actually appeared in one!
I'd planned a day at Art in Action as I missed it last year, so Gina and I had a lovely day.
Of course I found the Printmaking tent fun and also loved the ceramics on display, purchase mades in both!
The willow weaving interested me as I was booked at Cottenham Summer school on a weeks course.
That was at the end of July and I really enjoyed getting to grips with a different medium. I've always wanted to try it and thought I must do it before my arthritus in my hands makes it impossible! Sue Kirk was an excellent, talented tutor who guided us expertly through the different weaving techniques and types of willow. I enjoyed the whole process but my hands didn't! They have flared up in new places and have been quite sore, but as I'm having a rest from even lino cutting for a while are gradually settling down.
The beginning of my round basket and it finished; roundish!!
It took me a day and a half, as did the following one which was very tricky!
The last 2 days were on garden structures and this sphere even came home one evening to work on!
It now sits in my garden along with 2 dragon flies which I haven't photographed yet.
A fun week and Barney and William have already found a use for one of the baskets, it was a helmet when they were playing racing cars!
Now I'm spending 2 days in Dorset before preparing for Folk East, a festival near Woodbridge. I'll be demonstrating screen printing on textiles for 3 days; should be fun!
During all this I have been preparing in different ways for my big adventure....more soon... but it involves walking.....
Sorry, this picture seems to have disappeared, here it is!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Walking in Cornwall

After arriving in heavy rain at Penzance and nearly getting blown away by force 6 winds, it didn't bode well for 9 days walking part of the south west coast path. We set off the next morning in full waterproof gear!
Luckily, the rain stopped by 11 and the day gradually brightened and layers came off as it warmed up.
Newlyn is still a busy fishing town.

Wild flowers everywhere, the sun shining, beautiful views and hardly anyone around., wonderful!
I loved this beach of huge boulders like giant stepping stones, fun to walk across.
A small scabious and masses of thrift.
I loved the spectacular views, the silence, the wind cooling me down, the towering cliffs, the many shades of blue in the sea, changing all the time. Just stunning, I felt so lucky to be strolling along in such a beautiful area.
My friend Sue and friendly dog we met along the way.
The ruined buildings in the tin mining area were interesting, no sign of a certain person galloping by.....
My favourite, so atmospheric. We sat and had our lunch here, then walked the path over the hill... more next time.
Cambridge Open Studios is here again and I'm opening my studio all 4 weekends in Juy. Very busy getting ready, new prints, new designs on tea towels, aprons and cushions and lampshades.
Birds and Flowers
New mugs and coasters
A new lampshade and lanterns
More cards to pack, framing, dusting, tidying, hanging... two days to go,
looking forward to meeting more lovely people.
I nearly forgot to mention this fabulous book
I have copies to sell at my studio, I haven't photographed my pages yet but one of my designs is in the introduction.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Walking and wonderful news

I've started walking most days early in the morning for the last couple of weeks. I feel as if I'm starting the rest of my life this year. My dear mother died when she was only 66, my age now. I have missed her all this time and feel so lucky to have good health.
I don't remember the holiday, only the blue and yellow woolly swimming suit!!(soogy and droopy when wet).
My dear Will is here for a while and we were delighted to hear wonderful news following his recent scan. The oncologist came into the room smiling, Will's brain shows no sign of tumour, just brain.
This was what we hoped for of course and I can't really put into words the feeling of relief after 4 years of worry. All being well the next scan will be in 9 months, so we can all get on with our lives with cancer being in the past. I feel exhausted but at the same time enormous gratitude and admiration for all the dedicated, skilled people who have looked after Will.
Hence the feeling of a new start and the need to mark this year in a big way, I have an idea but I'm not sure that I'm brave enough.....
Will teaching Barney to use his camera.
I decided not to take my camera on my walks and just to observe. So no photos but many magical moments held in my memory, all with the sound of birdsong and Spring emerging in all it's beauty.
I saw a pair of blackcaps for the first time (identified when I got home); pheasants, partridges and skylarks flying up just in front of me; skylarks singing high above me; the kestrel who was my only companion, on the wire above, just keeping ahead of me and then swooping down a yard or so from me so I could see his glorious colours; the buzzard resting in a tree and effortlessly taking off; a flock of goldfinches on seedheads in a ditch; the red kite; the mistle thrush singing his cheery song, a pair of yellow hammers and all the usual lovely birds. The best moment was a pair of long tailed tits on a branch both with a feather in their beak, busy nest building. This morning was bright and sunny and a welcome change from the blustery, cold wind of recent days. The tight, sticky buds of the horse chestnut were just opening to reveal the wonderful lime green new leaves unfolding and several brimstone butterflies were out and one red admiral. What a beautiful time of the year.
Tomorrow I will be teaching lino cutting at Art Van Go in Knebworth, my first time working there, looking forward to it!

Monday, 9 March 2015

Fun with fabric

I am often drawn to fabric projects and feel fortunate to have been sewing in various ways since I was little.
Sadly my first little needlecase, made when I was about 7, disappeared in the painful years of divorce and moving but recently I came across my old needlework file and realised what a sound foundation the needlework lessons gave me. I really enjoyed sewing and 3 friends and I made history when we insisted on taking both Needlework and Art at O level. We had to see the headmistress about it but stuck to what we wanted and the whole exam timetable had to be changed for us. Interestingly, one of those friends is Alison Wilding, now a world famous sculptor.

This file cover was the first thing we made at Senior school. Here's the first page in my needlework folder.
I remember being scared the first time I used an electric sewing machine but by O level was making my own dresses and enjoying it; heres my Olevel Practical paper - a trip down memory lane!
More useful things we learnt!
My grandson's quilt has been fun, about to start the machine quilting.
NOT my favourite job!
I've used up some more 1970's strips to make a table runner for my sister Liz, or it could be hung or put on a bed or chair.
Nearly finished.
Exciting news is that my hare prints will be in a lovely new book.  It was March 2014 when I first heard about this project and now it's nearly there! Very exciting. It is called The Artful Hare by Alan Marshall. Publication will be early May, books available from and selected bookshops and galleries, price £27.50 (hardback, 275mm x 245mm, 208 pages, work by 73 British printmakers, 370+ prints).
Here's the cover, I'm looking forward to holding a copy! More information on my fb page. Please share my post if you can to spread the word. Thank you!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Endings and beginings

I had a quiet, restful end of year with time to reflect on 2014. This year I want to practice my mindfulness, be grateful for each day, help others, learn, relax, be brave, enjoy more creativity and walk a lot.
Hopefully 2015 will be full of good health, fun and new experiences; happy times spent with family and friends.
I was pleased to finish my shawl which was a challenge for me!!
It has proved useful on chilly evenings and is a lovely soft wool. I was missing the therapeutic qualities of knitting so started on this hat. 
Another new beginning is a patchwork quilt for my little William in limey greens and greys; I bought some at the Festival of quilts in 2013 and as William is still in a cot I knew I had plenty of time before it was needed. Over Christmas I needed a change and this has been ideal. 
I knew I wanted to base this quilt on the flying geese pattern and finally decided on this
design. I made up 2 blocks using fabrics I liked and then made up 2 small blocks the same. I remembered how difficult it was rearranging the blocks of Barney's quilt on the floor; this way by the time I'd made enough blocks I could play around with the little ones (just pieces of fabric stuck on paper) to see how I wanted to arrange them. I tried out lots of combinations. I like working this way, planning block as I go and making changes. 
Of course you don't get the scale of the fabrics but it helps to see the balance of light and dark and patterns and although fiddly to do beats crawling around on the floor moving blocks. There are so many possibilities. 
With each pair of blocks I tried to link the fabrics I chose, however loosely! Here we have 2 methods of transport, bicycles. I've finished the blocks and am putting it all together with plain grey strips inbetween each block, 'a bit tricky' as Barney would say.
Meanwhile to relax I'm enjoying the new books that appeared over Christmas. The other morning Louise said she, Barney and William were in bed until 10am reading books (14!) - I think a love of books runs in the family! Here are some I'm enjoying, the Quilt history one is fascinating, I'm very lucky to have some quilts from my family in Cumberland, more of that another time.